Paralyzed former Rutgers athlete expands bourbon brand into NY, donates $5.20 of every sale to research

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 10: Eric LeGrand speaks onstage during the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation Gala, A Magical Evening 2022 at Cipriani South Street on November 10, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for

Former Rutgers University defensive tackle Eric LeGrand is expanding his bourbon brand from New Jersey and Kentucky into New York and is donating proceeds from cases of liquor sold to find a cure for paralysis.

On Oct. 16, 2010, LeGrand was tragically paralyzed during a football game against Army at MetLife Stadium, home of the New York Jets and New York Giants.

During a fourth quarter play, LeGrand’s future plans were shifted, and his life remained still for a moment when he went to make a tackle. He told FOX Business during a video call that he positioned his head down assuming only his shoulder would make an impact with Army running back Malcolm Brown.

LeGrand’s head collided with Brown’s shoulder blade and the impact caused him to fracture his C3 and C4 vertebrae. LeGrand was paralyzed. He says the quick hit had him lying on the ground unsure and concerned for his future.


"After my injury, a lot of things started to motivate me," LeGrand said. "When I got to see, unfortunately, some families that were not there to support one another, or husbands and wives getting a divorce because of an injury, or people that just didn’t have anybody, it kind of inspired me."

He said he was motivated by steadfast support as he regained some feeling in various parts of his body. He looked for moral boosts from his mom, family, friends and strangers he had never met to continue along his path to recovery.

"I’m like, how can I get down on myself?" he said.

LeGrand also found solace in his former coach, Greg Schiano, former head coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and they maintain a bolstering relationship today.

"I've known him for 20 years, and he went from being a father figure, a coach, a mentor to a friend," he said of Schiano. "I wouldn't be who I am without him."

Despite a devastating injury, LeGrand chose to be thankful for all he has. His refusal to be obstructed by paralysis fuels his entrepreneurial spirit every day.

In 2023, LeGrand launched his bourbon brand called Eric LeGrand Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey and celebrated the first anniversary of its launch in March. The brand was co-founded with LeGrand’s friend and now business partner, Brian Axelrod.

Among other initiatives over the last decade, including opening a coffee house in New Jersey, LeGrand first partnered with the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation in 2013. The foundation’s extension, called Team LeGrand, ignites awareness and seeks financial contributions for individuals who have experienced a spinal cord injury.

Today, LeGrand’s fundraising efforts have accrued millions of dollars from eager supporters.

"I wake up every single day with a purpose," he said. "I know that there’s just so much to live for, obviously, with my life and my businesses. I'm very busy, so I really don’t have much time to sulk and get down on myself."

The spirits brand promises to donate $5.20 for every case of bourbon sold to the foundation.

"My number at Rutgers was 52, so when we made the decision that we were going to put my charity behind this and have a purpose behind our company, we said we’re going to donate $5.20," LeGrand said. "We’re going to do that for as long as we have ownership of the brand."

Last year, LeGrand and Axelrod marked a milestone for both the brand and Rutgers and signed a multi-year deal with Rutgers University Athletics as the first spirits brand to become a partner with the Big Ten school.

"Rutgers is near and dear to my heart," LeGrand said. "I think it’s amazing seeing people out there tailgating in parking lots with it."

His goal is to expand the brand across the U.S. Presently, LeGrand has plans to sell it to consumers in Massachusetts, among other states, later this year.

As for the Warrior Award recipient, he loves to drink LeGrand Bourbon as a shot, though he enjoys a mixed cocktail, too.


"If I’m ready to have a good time, I’m definitely doing shots," he said.

While LeGrand retells his story with a larger-than-life smile, he is dedicated to assisting in the mission to find a cure for paralysis and envisions himself up on his feet one day.

"Obviously, I know it’s going to take a scientific miracle for that day to happen, but that’s why I'm continuing to raise as much funds and awareness around my cause and my foundation," LeGrand said. "I truly believe that with technology advancing all the time, that we will find a cure for paralysis one day."

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